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A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All (2008)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 11/25/2008

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/13/2008

In my recent review for Shrek the Halls, I wrote about Christmas specials, both classic and modern. While writing this, it occurred to me that when we use the term "Christmas special", we are usually referring to something which is aimed at children (or children of all ages, at least). Where are the Christmas specials for adults? When I hear that term, I picture some stuffy old show featuring someone like Perry Como -- something that my generation probably wouldn't like. Well, help is coming from the most unlikeliest of places, as we get A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All. Can a late-night basic-cable faux pundit make an enjoyable Christmas special for grown-ups?

In case you aren't familiar with him, Stephen Colbert had been kicking around comedy for several years when he came to national prominence as a correspondent on The Daily Show. Showing a knack for remaining straight-faced while saying the craziest things, Comedy Central launched The Colbert Report, where Colbert plays the part (he is acting, right?) of a staunch conservative who is driven by puritanical views...and is crazy. This has lead to books and Emmy awards for the actor. (Did you see him wearing blinders and earmuffs on Election Night? Classic.)

A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All takes Stephen in a slightly different direction. As the show opens, Stephen is in his cabin in the mountains. It's Christmas-time and he needs to get back to his studio in New York for the taping of his Christmas special. He receives a call from Elvis Costello, who is at the studio, with an update on the show. But, when Stephen tries to leave his cabin, he's attacked by a bear (!). Trapped, he panics, as he doesn't know what to do. Stephen is then subsequently visited by Toby Keith, Willie Nelson (in an hallucination), John Stewart, John Legend, and Feist. These visitors help to remind Stephen as to what Christmas is all about.

To say that A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All is hit-or-miss would be an understatement. Let's focus on the positive first. If you think that Stephen Colbert's brand of straight-faced, yet loopy brand of comedy is funny, then you're going to find something to love here. There are some great lines here, and the entire exchange between Cobert and John Stewart (who tries to convince Stephen to try Hanukkah) is hilarious. There is also a particular moment by the manger which had me in tears. Colbert is alone for intervals here, and the comments to himself are funny. Heck, just spotting all of letter Cs that he has everywhere is humorous.

But, in keeping with Christmas special tradition, A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All is a musical as well, and the songs are less than a mixed-bag. All of the songs are supposed to be funny, but most of them are one-joke numbers. There is too much of a variety of music here, and I doubt that any Feist fans will like the Toby Keith song and vice-versa. Also, it's painful to watch the musicians try to act. Although, kudos to Elvis Costello for wearing an array of goofy costumes.

While A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All certainly has some fun moments, ultimately, it's a let-down. While Stephen Colbert knew that "Stephen Colbert" would want to have a very traditional Christmas special with musical guests, the show never really finds its groove. Still, one must applaud Colbert and Comedy Central for trying something different and attempting to give adults a Christmas special all their own.

A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All comes down the chimney on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The show has been letterboxed at 1.66:1, but the transfer is not 16 x 9. The image is fairly sharp and clear, as the picture shows no grain or defects from the source material. Shot on video, the image does show some occasional video noise and ghosting. The colors look very good and the image is never too dark. The transfer more than rivals digital broadcast quality. The DVD contains a Dolby stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some occasional stereo effects here and the music in the show sounds fine. The show can be viewed with or without audio from a live audience.

The A Colbert Christmas DVD contains a few extras. "Book-burning Video Yule Log" (18 minutes) is just like those other video fireplace DVDs on the market, except in this one, someone is heaping books onto the flames. "Video Advent Calendar" looks just like an Advent calendar and offers 24 short videos with Colbert imparting wisdom. Some of these are quite funny and most contain really bad advice. The DVD contains three ALTERNATE ENDINGS which run about 3 minutes total. Two are Twilight Zone endings and the third is just weird. The DVD also has a BONUS SONG, "Cold, Cold Christmas" performed by Stephen Colbert.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long